American Anti-Catholicism

Last week, Greenville, South Carolina — the buckle of the Bible Belt — made national headlines for the second time in two weeks. The first story involved Rev. Jay Scott Newman and his comments in his parish bulletin about Catholics who voted for Obama. The second was the announcement that the fundamentalist Bob Jones University had issued a public apology for its racist past.
I happen to be connected to both stories: I’m on the staff of Father Newman’s parish, and I’m a graduate of Bob Jones University. How I managed to exit the school in 1978 and return to Greenville nearly 30 years later to be ordained as a Catholic priest is a story in itself, but the coincidence of the two news items in two weeks highlighted the question of anti-Catholicism in our country: Father Newman’s statement elicited vitriolic anti-Church statements in some cases, and Bob Jones University is infamous not only for its past racism but its strong anti-Catholicism.
I was a student at Bob Jones University in the mid 1970s when the first black student was admitted. I was there in 1978 when Pope Paul VI died, and I heard Dr. Bob Jones Jr. speak his now famous words: “Pope Paul VI, archpriest of Satan, a deceiver and an anti-Christ, has, like Judas, gone to his own place.” I remember students who were training to be Baptist preachers returning to campus bragging that they had visited a local Catholic church and spit in the font, then prayed for deliverance for all the devil worshippers who went there every Sunday. Every year we had the chance to hear Ian Paisley, the fiery Northern Irish Presbyterian preacher, deliver blistering attacks on Catholics during his annual American preaching tour.
This was the stuff of old-fashioned Protestant anti-Catholicism, rooted in centuries of misinformation, black propaganda, and sincere misunderstanding. This was the anti-Catholicism in which the pope was the anti-Christ riding on the back of that great whore of Babylon, the Catholic Church. It fed on Lorraine Boettner’s Roman Catholicism, that classic collection of calumnies, lies, and half-truths. As fundamentalist youths, we read the sensational Jack Chick tracts. These riveting comic books portrayed the Catholic Church as a pagan, cookie-worshipping cult, complete with crazed priests, murderous popes, and the bodies of illegitimate babies buried in tunnels under convents. It was juicy stuff — completely paranoid and ridiculous, but juicy nonetheless.
In this ecumenical age, such traditional Protestant bigotry is dying out. More and more, Evangelical Christians are coming to realize that the “old old story” of God’s love for a dying world and the saving work of Christ on the cross is now most fully and vigorously told by the modern Catholic Church, as so many of their own churches are buying into the secular, morally indifferent agenda of the world around them. Marcus Grodi’s Coming Home Network reports an increasing number of Evangelical pastors coming into the Catholic Church; it might not be long before Bob Jones University itself issues a statement apologizing for its anti-Catholicism.
Does this mean that anti-Catholicism is dead? I fear not. While the old-fashioned Protestant variety is dying out, a new and equally virulent form is rising up, evident in three different manifestations.
The first is from people who actually call themselves Catholics. The dissenting Catholics in our church have, for the most part, worn a friendly face. They couch their disobedience in polite terminology. They “respectfully disagree with the Holy Father,” or “they are listening carefully to the teaching of the Church, but they are also listening carefully to their own consciences.” This deceitful dissent will soon die out: As the radical Catholics see their own agendas withering for lack of interest, and as they observe the increasing youth and influence of the faithful Catholics, their true colors will be revealed. If they have not done so already, those dissenting Catholics will remove themselves from the Church. Their failure will focus in anger, their frustration will surface as rage, and they will move from being dissenting Catholics to outspoken critics of the Church.
The second category of the new anti-Catholicism will involve a fresh kind of Protestant revolt. The new Protestant anti-Catholicism will not be from backwoods preachers, with their colorful imagery of whores and dragons, but from the urbane practitioners of suburban, liberal Protestantism. The liberal Protestants who endorse women’s ordination, homosexual “marriage,” and the whole liberal agenda will become increasingly impatient with Catholicism. Already they sneer at a religion that “demands blind obedience to a medieval monarch.” Their frustration at what they perceive to be the Catholic Church’s stance on contraception, abortion, women’s rights, and homosexuality will lead them to call for Catholicism to be restrained because it is divisive and fosters hate and intolerance, opposing the “New World Order.”
In his 2003 book The New Anti-Catholicism, Philip Jenkins describes the third purveyor of the new anti-Catholicism: the secular hedonistic population in the United States. Jenkins recounts a few incidents to illustrate the point: In New York in 1989, a gay activist group demonstrated in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. They interrupted Mass, forcing the archbishop to abandon his sermon, and threw condoms around the church and desecrated the Host. In 2000, twenty ski-masked members of a “feminist autonomous collective” interrupted Mass in Montreal. They spray-painted slogans on the walls of the church and altar, tried to overturn the tabernacle, stuck used sanitary napkins on pictures and walls, threw condoms around the sanctuary, and chanted pro-abortion slogans.
These are a few of the most extreme examples, but Jenkins shows how the anti-Catholic attitude that fuels these extreme protests is woven, both subtly and blatantly, throughout the American media and educational culture. Jenkins isn’t a Catholic, so his work is all the more powerful for its objective position.
In Tortured for Christ, his account of imprisonment under the Communist regime in Romania, Protestant pastor Richard Wurmbrandt observed that, in prison, there were no divisions between Catholics and Protestants — all were simply Christian brothers. As our society shifts and introduces new forms of anti-Catholicism, Catholics should be prepared to forge new alliances. We may find that our best friends used to be our worst enemies.
Conservative Evangelicals share many of the same values that we as Catholics have always proclaimed. We need to be open-minded, build bridges with those who distrust us, and work together in the fight for a culture of life. Who knows — Bob Jones University might yet introduce a “Fellowship of Bob Jones Catholics,” and I could be their chaplain.

Rev. Dwight Longenecker

By

Rev. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is The Romance of Religion published by Thomas Nelson. Check out his website and blog at www.dwightlongenecker.com.

  • Julie

    Go to a few blogs, such as Triablogue, home to redoutable Calvinists, to hear conservative evangelical Protestant anti-Catholicism writ large. And there are more where that came from. It’s simply wrong to say that evangelical Protestants are beginning to recover from their traditional anti-Catholicism: they’re not. That may be the official story of groups like the Coming Home Network, but out here in the real world, there’s just as much anti-Catholicism from evangelicals as there ever was.

  • Ann

    I have to agree with Julie above. I have evangelicals in my own family who think nothing of insulting Catholicism to my face. I can’t imagine what they say behind my back.

  • Jen

    I think the main thrust of the article, though, is what the shifts in general direction of anti-Catholicism seem to be, particularly when taking the longer view of the trends in our country.

    Sadly, people are obviously still encountering anti-Catholic sentiments from some Evangelical Protestants. Could it still be the case, though, that this is less wide-spread than it used to be and in a general decline? I think that’s all Father Longenecker is trying to argue.

    (Julie: I went to the blog you pointed out and skimmed through some of the most recent posts that reference Catholicism explicitly. I was actually surprised at how moderate the tone was, even though I disagreed with many of the comments. I may have missed something there, though, in my quick read. Those are some LONG posts!)

  • Julie

    “less” overt anti-Catholicism in some quarters of the evangelical Protestant world than there used to be (which I’m not sure I agree with), you should go back to Triablogue. One of the comments I encountered was that Catholicism was a “celebrity religion,” you know, those celebrities like the saints, the Pope, etc.

    Another part of Fr. Longenecker’s post here that I think is a bit fatuous is his statement that “many evangelicals share the same values” as we Catholics. Well, yes, if you separate them out one by one. But Fr. Longenecker has forgotten context or the underlying philosophical assumptions, which create a very different atmosphere for Catholicism than for evangelical Protestantism. Yes, we can join together for the culture of life, but there’s more to Catholicism than just the life issue. There’s also doctrine and liturgy and the entire culture of Catholicism and Fr. Longenecker never brings this up. In order to have a bridge, you need more than a few hot-button social issues.

  • Jen

    Julie, I noticed that line, too. Personally, it just made me shake my head over a very predictable misunderstanding of what the Catholic faith is all about. It didn’t strike me as vitriolic — I’ve read much worse in other places.

    I’m not downplaying the experience of those who have encountered real vitriol in others, by any means. (And like I said, you can definitely find it on the internet if you look for it.) But misunderstanding is common and wide-spread and may not be in any kind of decline. That in itself isn’t harmful to dialogue as long as it isn’t accompanied by hate or stubborn, willful ignorance.

    I don’t think we can allow ourselves to get too upset at being misunderstood. On the other hand, I think we definitely need to use our PC culture against itself and call people out on genuinely bigoted comments, particularly in the public sphere.

  • Bernard

    Generally speaking, I find Inside Catholic to be pro-Fundagelicals despite their rabid anti-Catholicism (e.g., Hagee). I attribute this disturbing allegience to a shared far right-wing politics and ideology that seems to trump all significant differences. This site also has strong fundagelical roots and inspiration which attracts many converts looking for a Catholic place to air their far right-wing politics and ideology. Maybe that explains all the extremist hate-filled rhetoric here directed at liberal (Democratic) Catholics.

    You can take the Fundagelical out of the Old Time Religion, but you can’t take the hate out of the Fundagelical.

  • Tony Esolen

    Thank you, Father Longenecker, for a message of hope and warning.

    I come to this issue from a couple of peculiar experiences. One is that my wife and I have been homeschooling our children for 15 years now, among other homeschoolers, Catholic and Protestant (I was the president of our organization for 7 years). Rhode Island is 70 percent Catholic, but among homeschoolers the percentages are exactly reversed. Yet on the ground level — away from theologians, and with a cause or two to unite us — we have found great fellowship with one another. We’ve prayed together, sung hymns, and celebrated feasts. We call one another brothers and sisters in Christ.

    With all the deficiencies of evangelicalism, I’ll say any day that I have more in common with my fellow evangelical homeschoolers than I have with a liberal semi-apostate Catholic, any day. I think they see things the same way — that they have more in common with us than they have with Willow Creek and things like that. But here the lack of a clear magisterium really hurts — evangelicals are prone to falling prey to the latest theological fad, and sometimes it takes a decade or two to flush it out of the system.

    I know my most vicious enemies are the secularists among whom I work, in academe. There’s no question about that. I can always get along with somebody from Bob Jones University, because I know what the battlefield is, and that there ought to be a battle for the ultimate truths. Just try to get along with somebody who will fight to the death for the proposition that there is nothing to fight to the death for. (I actually have a very dear friend who is a BJU graduate, from the seventies, who is now a Baptist minister.)

    But Father, if you read this and you get the chance, say hello to Father Newman for me and give him a slap on the back. St. Mary’s was our parish for two years, a long time ago when I taught down the road at Furman.

  • Sid

    Allow me to proclaim both sides in the debate correct. Anti-Catholic feeling still exists among some traditional Evangelicals, yet it is also present and increasing among the Evangelical neo-Calvinists. And at the same time Fr. is correct to observe that anti-Catholic feeling is increasing among Liberal Protestants.

    Worth noting is indeed the drift of Evangelical theology toward Calvinism. I’ve met scores of Neo-Calvinist Baptists in the last few years (They call themselves “Reformed”, yet the abjure pedobaptism, a view that would have been incinerated in Calvin’s Geneva). Decisionism, once the core dogma of Evangelicals, is increasing being replaced by Predestination and Assurance of Salvation. Of course, both Evangelical and Calvinists always have held the dogma of Penal Substitutional Atonement, a dogma which Catholics surely find problematic at best.

    As for the Liberal Protestants (and most Liberal Catholics are really Liberal Protestants, e.g. Kung) they are both a retread of Pelegianism and the “useful idiots” of the Cultural Marxists. And I suspect they are dying; their children are “moving on” to atheism. To refer to one Liberal Protestant group: The only hope for the Whiskey-palians (to use some Baptist lingo) is for B16 to crack down on Glory and Praise liturgy and to excommunicate McBrien, in which case the Liberals will flee in massive numbers to the Liberal Anglicans.

  • Dwight Longenecker

    This short article was not intended as an in depth treatment of the Evangelical – Catholic dialogue and debate. I have written about this elsewhere, and there is much to be said about this interesting and evolving relationship. It is true that there is still a lot of anti Catholic feeling amongst the fundamentalists, but among mainstream Evangelicals there is an increasing warmth toward things Catholic.

    This does not negate the real differences which exist from a fundamental level upwards between Evangelicals and Protestants, but this article was not about that.

    Instead it is making the simple point that Jenkins makes in his book that there is a new Anti Catholicism out there which is even more violent and virulent than the old type, and we had best be on our guard.

  • Kevin

    Generally speaking, I find Inside Catholic to be pro-Fundagelicals despite their rabid anti-Catholicism (e.g., Hagee). I attribute this disturbing allegience to a shared far right-wing politics and ideology that seems to trump all significant differences. This site also has strong fundagelical roots and inspiration which attracts many converts looking for a Catholic place to air their far right-wing politics and ideology. Maybe that explains all the extremist hate-filled rhetoric here directed at liberal (Democratic) Catholics.

    You can take the Fundagelical out of the Old Time Religion, but you can’t take the hate out of the Fundagelical.

    Dear Bernard,

    “all the extremist hate-filled rhetoric”

    Physician, heal thyself.

  • Augustine

    Bernard, admit it: Your post was mainly an excuse to use the word “Fundagelical.”

  • Tom

    Fr. Longenecker’s trotting out the usual suspects: dissident Catholics, liberal Protestants, and secularism. He’s not the only one who does this. It’s a common mantra used by many who seek an alliance between Catholics and evangelicals. However, what about the dissidents on the “right”? I could name, among others, Fr. Jay Scott Newman, who made one nasty remark after another about the Holy Father’s Motu Proprio de-restricting the traditional Latin Mass. He clearly dissented from the Holy Father and did so publicly, in his parish bulletin. And he calls his brand of Catholicism “evangelical Catholicism.” So it’s pretty clear to me that dissident Catholics are not only on the “left” side of the spectrum.

  • Bernard

    Bernard, admit it: Your post was mainly an excuse to use the word “Fundagelical.”

    Actually, my goal was to inspire someone to write, “Physician, heal thyself.”

  • Bernard

    Regarding Tom’s comment, I’ve noticed quite a bit of anti-papacy, anti-Vatican sentiment and disrespect among the political right-wingers at Inside Catholic. Makes me wonder if those here who converted from fundagelicalism have truly embraced Catholicism or only those elements familiar to them. Since conservatives are by their very natures intolerant and adverse to change, it’s possible that those to the political and ideoligical right of the Vatican might simply reject it.

    The idea of Fr. Newman’s “evangelical Catholicism,” as demonstrated by his own extreme behavior, sends chills up my spine. Very scary.

  • Holly Williams

    Well, I totally agree with the article and found it to be an excellent article! Just take a look at the gay activists in this nation. Some of them like to disrupt Masses and go to Mass wearing rainbow arm bands and such. And some of them actually get away with it in the more liberal dioceses and parishes. This needs to be stopped immediately. This is just one example. I could probably think of 5 or 6 more examples. Anyway, that’s pretty much all that I had to say.

  • Andrew

    Great article Father and so true. Personally, I’m ready for the CINOs (Catholics In Name Only) to leave the Church. It’s disgusting that these so-called Catholics think they can be pro-abortion and then, have the nerve to walk down the aisle on Sunday and receive the Eucharist. I’m also very disappointed in the Diocese of Charleston for throwing Father Newman under the bus after he rightfully called for Obama-voting Catholics to go to confession. I’ve heard several fellow (true) Catholics say that the Church will have to become smaller in order to become greater. So be it: let the purification begin now!

  • Staten Island Pilgrim

    The good father’s argument has some validity, in my opinion, but I don’t see too much cause for optimism. He’s right that the old fashioned anti-Catholicism among fundamentalists is softening. Increased interaction in everyday life as well as in pursuit of common causes, like the protection of life and traditional marriage, have led to a friendlier attitude towards Catholics, if not necessarily towards Catholic theology. In addition, I’ve noticed that the people- cradle Protestants and fallen away Catholics- who have been a part of the evangelical movement for any length of time tend to become a bit disillusioned and less rigid as they roam from church to church seeking the truth and a “comfortable fit”, as is their wont. After years spent seeing so much imperfection in the evangelical world, and with increasing maturity, the average church shopper comes out being somewhat less condemnatory of Catholicism’s supposed failings, and perhaps a bit more open to its claims of authority and orthodoxy. However, how do we bring them home?

    It’s true that there have been many evangelical pastors who have converted in recent years (although I’d venture to say that their numbers pale in comparison to the number of Protestant conversions pre-Vatican II). But these were highly motivated and educated individuals whose conversion stories were usually self directed- the typical story I hear involves intensive study of the Church Fathers and comparative theology leading them to the Catholic Church. I don’t recall any of these converts being motivated by, say, the preaching of a Catholic priest, or the model lives of our members. Who is reaching the average evangelical? Internet apologists? Please. They amount to nothing. Who is_trying_to reach the average evangelical on a personal level, which is where the mass of conversions really happen? The answer is no one. Our Church is a mess.

    We just don’t_do_anything, least of all evangelize. Our priests don’t train us, encourage us or lead us by example. Even if I could convince a non-Catholic to come to Mass, what would they find in most cases? Lack of reverence by both clergy and laity, horrible and sometimes heretical preaching, lack of belief in the Real Presence, abysmal knowledge of our own Faith, no zeal for God, etc. They would see a church where our highest prelates publicly preach ridiculously anti-Christian dogma, such as the errancy of the Bible, the validity of non-Christian religions for salvation, etc. I would be embarrassed to bring a Protestant to any Catholic church in my neck of the woods. So, to sum up, the opportunity might be out there, but where are the harvesters? In any case, we’ve got to clean up our own house before worrying about roping in evangelicals.

  • John

    It would be terrible discovery to find out when you die that the Church that Christ founded was actually the Church that one fought so hard to discredit in ones life. Be sure the church you belong to is the Church that Christ spoke of and founded. Seek the truth, read and study history and writing from the early Christians (Church Fathers). If after much prayer and study you come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is not from God, then you will stand firm before God on your judgment day, you will also be the first person I know of how sought the truth and ended up outside the Catholic Church.

    Truth is absolute not relative. Two opposites both cannot be true at the same time. Conception, opposite of conception is contraception. The word contra means to counter act. Is God counteracting himself? Think about this long and hard don

  • Jack

    if it weren’t for the fact that Fr. Newman has been himself a dissident when it comes to things he doesn’t like or want. He seems to be very selective when it comes to orthodoxy. He’s thrown the Church under the bus several times – on the Motu Proprio, with his disrespect of the pre-Vatican II Church, etc. And his involvement in politics is in direct opposition to statements from the Vatican.

  • Cyril+Methodius

    Way too many Catholics are becoming “lapsed” and/or CINO [Catholics In Name Only]; and Father Longenecker brings a valid observation to the table that Orthodox-Catholics should take notice, which is that the trendy “in vogue” anti-Catholicism [drifting further and further from Christ’s message] is a natural progression of rejecting that which Jesus our teacher taught which can adjunctly be blamed on sloppy liturgy, our irreverence for what Christ gave us in the Seven Sacraments and especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and even to lustful or other human weakness; which, let’s face it, Mrs. Lucifer exploits in weak minds to his satanic advantage. OR, another way of predicdting and looking at the coming storm is: that former Catholics will be in the vanguard of persecuting Catholics and Christ’s message. Kind of like watching a trainwreck, or a rewind of St. Paul turning into Saul the enabler/persecutor.

  • Mary Rose

    Fr. Longenecker,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article and can attest to its truth. I cried throughout the day on March 20, 2008 after realizing God was calling me back to the Catholic church. I cried for a few reasons. First, my husband is not Catholic and I knew coming back would more firmly separate us spiritually than if I simply found a good non-Catholic church to attend. And second, I knew a family friend was vehemently anti-Catholic, not to mention my brother who had left the Catholic church over the priest scandals, would be highly doubtful of the wisdom of my return.

    But the Catholic church has withstood far worse. The end of the age is approaching and the world, who is still in darkness, hates He who is the Light. I am preparing for it and appreciate this article. More Catholics need to read it.

    Note to Bernard: Truth is intolerant of lies and adverse to change. It would not be truth, otherwise. Glory be to the Father, and the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

  • Philip Saenz

    Things to think about:
    1. If God can change bread into human beings, why can’t He change bread into Himself in the Holy Eucharist?
    2. If you have enough faith that the apostles wrote the Holy Bible infallibly, why can’t you have enough faith that the successor of St. Peter is infallible when making a pronouncement in faith and morals? It’s so easy for God to protect the Holy Church that He founded from making mistakes in faith and morals.
    3. I have been very fortunate. I have witnessed many miracles in the supernatural order. For example, God created food, for me, out of nothing three times. I have experienced saints reading my mind. Many, many more miracles. Some day I will tell you about the greatest miracle, maybe.
    4. It’s all probably because of the Holy Rosary that I have experienced many miracles in the supernatural order. I have prayed eleven Holy Rosaries daily for many years.
    5. I’m not saying I’m holy, but I’m trying to be holy. I don’t think it’s a very easy task. But it is possible.
    6. I know this much: when we increase out faith, God will do more for us, even very astonishing things. God is so very generous and sweet. So very humble. God amazes me.
    7. No, I can’t walk on water, but if the occasion arises, if it means between life and death, I will not hesitate to ask my Creator to allow me to walk on water.

  • Dennis DeLaurier

    Many of my neighbors are Protestant and are seeing the same problems which seems in most cases to come from liberal Protestant (friends?). I think that in the near future we will all have to make choices, and it will not just be Catholics.

    Dennis

  • Fr Odhran-Mary

    The idea that the NEW anti-Catholics would be fallen-away Catholics is thought-provoking.
    I think, however, that the enemy itself is nondenominational. The enemy is the self-justification that we all use to remain in sin and to cast dirt on the authority that we fight in order to remainin in that sin.
    The Roman Catholic Church is indeed the most visible authority for fallen-away Catholics.
    For Bible Christians who are backslidden, (I love that word) it is the Bible itself.
    I have had a liberal clergyman carefully explain to me that there are only five places in the Bible that specifically mention homosexual behavior. Then with care he dis-assembled (sic) each of those mentions.
    All rebels get their self-image fed by their rebellion, and each rebel MUST have an authority on which to base his rebellion.
    In essence, Father, good point, and one that needs further exploration.

  • Mark

    It seems forgotten in this discussion that prominent catholic politicians are preaching decidedly un-catholic things and not getting a clear rebuke from the church. Silence is consent. Hence the good father should consider that the church is complicit in the crime of abortion.

  • Diane Kamer

    …I agree with Father Longenecker that there’s less of it all the time. Heck, one of the nicest, noblest Christian gentlemen I know is an Independent Baptist who graduated from Bob Jones University. (Matthew, are you out there? I’m sending this link to you. :-))

    I recently started posting in the society and culture section of a staunch Calvinist forum, and I have received a warm and charitable welcome. When it comes to the Culture Wars, many Protestants now recognize that they have far more in common with conservative Catholics than they formerly thought.

  • Kevin J Jones

    Catholics are once again being depicted as agents of bigotry, superstition, and mindless authoritarianism. This depiction often comes from the left, but how much of this is inspired by old liberal Protestant attitudes?

    Elite mainline Protestants apparently embraced Catholics when we could be depicted as beleaguered minorities, and now they’re doing the same for gays. Is this reflective of a deep habit in mainline Protestant thought, which still influences the U.S. ruling class either in its religious or secularized forms?

  • Pam

    “BY THY HOLY AND IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, O MARY, DELIVER US FROM EVIL.”–Prophetic Prayer taught by Our Lady of America to Sister Mary Ephrem, Convent of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, Rome, Indiana, 1956. (http://www.OurLadyofAmerica.org)

  • Lisa in Ohio

    I am forever perplexed as to why the Catholic right has made allegiances with Evangelicals. All one needs to do is read passages by Reverend Hagee to understand how one of the country

  • Phil

    “I’ve heard several fellow (true) Catholics say that the Church will have to become smaller in order to become greater. So be it: let the purification begin now!”

    AMEN!!! Instead of these people being so determined to further damage the Church, they just need to leave and establish their own “church”. They can pretend to have the Eucharist and they can have female “ordinations”, be pro-abortion, and have gay bishops, bang on bongos with laser light shows during worship services, etc, all they want. Elect Richard P. McBrien to be your leader. Whatever. Just do all that somewhere else.

  • Apollo F. Salle

    Anti-Catholicism is still very much around in U.S. society but it is no longer the Know Nothing Party/Maria Monk kind of anti-Catholicism (the anti-Catholicism which makes the ridiculous claims that the Pope is the Antichrist, and that the Vatican is the Whore of Babylon, and that convents are actually prisons and the nuns are actually unwilling sex slaves of priests, etc.) The anti-Catholicism of the present time has long since changed its character and color and, therefore, more dangerous. The anti-Catholicism of the past states that the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic and, at that time, that meant any given Catholic who would admit that, for example, the Pope is indeed the Antichrist and then and only then would that Catholic be accepted into the “respectable” circles of the time. That the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic is still the essence of the modern-day anti-Catholicism, only it is more intellectualized and more secularized (as it no longer caters to the sectarian Protestant fears of the past centuries). This time around, it would mean that a Catholic should express in word or deed or both that he or she, for instance, makes up his or her own mind particularly in the field of sexual morality and does not listen to the proclamations of the “patriarchal, male-dominated” hierarchy (which Frances Kissling of Catholics For A Free Choice infamy describes as “300 men in dresses”). In contrast, a Catholic who does otherwise, a Catholic who says that he or she supports the official Catholic teachings on moral issues (in other words, pro-life, pro-premarital abstinence, and so on) will be looked down upon as either as a mindless and spineless robot who cannot think for oneself or an inflexible, rigid, extreme right-wing zealot who cannot or will not change with the times or, worse, wants to return to the puritanical 1950’s. I said earlier that this brand of anti-Catholicism is more dangerous simply because it appeals to the vanity of the individual (Catholic) person as the desire to be accepted by society at large is, admittedly, a very strong pull. Nobody wants to be known, for example, as someone who wants to turn back the clock (I myself for one would not want to be known as such!). Now I got into a discussion with a co-worker several years back about sexual morality and all he would say in response to what I would say each time was “Yeah, but you’re telling me what your Church teaches. You are not telling me your opinion.” His response, I think, mirrors the attitude of secular U.S. society.

  • Jayme

    I am encouraged by Rev. Longnecker’s words. I came into the Church in 2004, and before that I was an Evangelical, attending a non-denominational mega-church. I have a great love for our separated brethren. Looking at the election results, (http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=367) it seems in many ways Catholics faithful to Church teachings have more in common with conservative Evangelicals than with our more liberal (and poorly catechized) brothers and sisters inside the Church.

  • Mary

    Thank you, Father for an excellent article. I live here in the Bible Belt and can attest to your “prophetic trend” – the lukewarm cafeteria Catholics down here have been the hardest to befriend…many of them are materialistic, secular and want little to do with our Church. They regard me and my Church friends as odd because we are proud to be Roman Catholic.

    And yet, for the most part, it is the Bible Christians who have been gracious, curious, yet cautious about my enthusiasm about this “pagan Church” I rave about! I love to tell them how all my strength comes from the Eucharist…”you know, John 6…we really believe Jesus meant what He said.”

    Anyway, they aren’t shutting me down so far, they listen respectfully and I listen respectfully to their Scripture quotes and their enthusiastic pitches about the great church they belong to, or just formed (yesterday), etc. I truly believe the Holy Spirit can and will work on them, and I don’t find them anywhere nearly as cold and offstandish as CINOs.

    But I admit, today was different. I was sitting with my son at at a fast food place and two men sitting next to us were loudly bashing our Church (maybe they saw us make the sign of the Cross as we said Grace – I don’t know), but it was the most vile, anti-Catholic talk ever – I forgot my food as I listened to them rant on and on…did you know Hitler, that evil Catholic, got direct orders from the Vatican to perpetrate the Holocaust?? Yes, we Catholics killed millions of innocent Christians and Jews, all with the Pope’s blessing! We Catholics are conspiring the New World Order, etc. etc. That was just for starters.

    At my son’s insistence, I walked over and politely told them I was a Catholic and I was truly offended by how wrong they were…we talked/politely argued for about 15 minutes about how our Church is NOT the Whore of Babylon, that they are not saved by faith alone (ever read James?), how the pillar and foundation of truth is the Church, NOT Scripture (I love how they flatly deny the Bible says that!), how infant baptism is found in the Acts of the Apostles, and – they really didn’t like this one – that there really is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, for She alone is the fount of all God’s Grace.

    So yes, it is really rough terrain down here, but I felt a bit hopeful, because they did admit they only read anti-Catholic material and they promised they would go “to the horse’s mouth” and try to learn a different perspective – I referred them to http://www.catholic.com and that they should buy Karl Keating’s book, Catholicism vs. Fundamentalism.

    My son was proud to see my attempt to “evangelize the evangelicals”…it wasn’t easy, but I truly pray that their hearts of stone will melt – yes, their hearts may be hateful now, but God can work with that hate…it is the lukewarm He will spit out of His Mouth.

  • Mary Rose

    I was truly encouraged and blessed by your response. It is my hope that more of us who love our Catholic faith would be given, through the power of the Holy Spirit, such boldness! Most of the anti-Catholic bashing that goes on is simply because people are mis-informed. Heck, even I, who was raised as a Catholic, did not realize some of the truths that I am now only learning about. In essence, I am “re-catechizing” myself because during the “Let’s-All-Give-Peace-A-Chance” sixties and seventies, I didn’t receive much spiritual formation at all. At least nothing that could stand strong against ignorance.

    It was Jack Chick’s comic books that took me away from the Catholic church. It is taking some patient studying of Scripture and writings of the Church fathers to unravel those lies, but it’s happening. God bless you for bringing up your son in the faith. You planted perseverance in his heart that day!

    By the way, I used to live in Charlotte, NC for five years (as a non-Catholic) and can relate.

  • Luis Alfredo

    I work in a public school. I thank God that I have a warm relationship with the evangelical Christians in my school. Though I do not doubt that they have certain suspicions about my faith and my Church, they are very accepting and are open to praying with me for the school and other intentions. We have simple spiritual discussions that praise God, refer to our need for Him, and give Him thanks. As teachers we are usually so busy that we do not have time to get into deeper theological discussions. But on a few occasions the Holy Spirit has allowed us to get into these discussions, and thanks be to God I and the other side remained polite and respectful.

    As a secular Franciscan, I keep St. Francis’ words in my heart: “Preach always. Use words only when necessary.” I believe that it is our cheerfulness, our charity, and our patience that will reach these evangelical Christians, and yes, the fallen-away Catholics, more effectively than our words. If they learn to trust us because of our charity, they will then be open to our sharing about the Holy Eucharist, Mary, the saints, and the Catholic Church as the pillar and foundation of our Church. Thanks to all above for your comments which I read and pondered. May God bless you.

  • Donna

    I love all my brothers and sisters in Christ!

    I think many laps Catholics never learned about the eucharist, and its not all their fault.

    Lanciano in Italy Isth miracle of the Eucharist that science has studied.

    Also look up Eucharistic miracles of the world on Google.

    If you do know this , spread it in this year of St. Paul

  • Mary B

    Very good article, Father There are a lot of Catholics out there who beleive that abortion is okay, or gay rights is okay, or openly express their views which are not Church teaching.So, they are actually not Catholic at all. They beleive in the accepted teachings of other religions, so they should get out and go where their ideas are welcomed, and stop trying to destroy our church from within. Sometimes, their lack of knowledge is not their fault, but if I don’t know enough about any organization I belong to and don’t wish to know more, then I need to get out because I make it very difficult for those who know the truth and are serious about it. And I don’t beleive all gay people are as dissruptive and dangerous as these groups who have invaded Church grounds to spread their hate. Maybe it is time for married couples to start invading their private headquarters and meeting places and spread the agenda of disapproval for their actions

  • Baby Rose

    I saw this homily title on the First Methodist Church sign; Where are you God?…as I drove past today–the church of my infant baptism. I answered to myself: in the Sacraments; most epecially in the Eucharisitic Host & Blood; in the Catholic Church instituted by Christ Jesus.
    No wonder these Christians are looking for God…how sad & I realized how far I had come away from my Protestant roots.

    I am a Catholic convert of 20 years, but in stages.

    In 1988 I was invited by a friend to attend (unbeknown to me, a liberal & rather secular) Newman Center, but later in 1996 I was confirmed in the Catholic Church at this same (dissident) Newman Center. I entered at a superficial level not realizing that the Catholic faith can have an undercurrent of depth not readily perceived at 1st.
    In 2000 I transfered worship to the local parish (a liberal secular Univeristy parish), because I thought it was more “conservative” than the Newman had been. Then in 2003 I got DISH with EWTN programming which actually showed me the beauty of authentic* Catholicism for the 1st time; properly catechised my thirsting soul over time & gave me devotional helps & spiritual assistance. As I began to grow in holiness I saw my parish for what it really was; diluted Cathoicism where I began to feel estranged from the “community.” It may have satisfied an immature faith, but now I craved much more.

    EWTN then became my lifeline to God & His Church. This ultimately prepared me to participate in the Latin liturgies of EWTN daily & Sunday plus the Extraordinary Mass, as well. All this fed my spirit well, except for the need to physically receive the Eucharistic Host. I found a Hispanic Mass (with the bells at consecration)and worship there for my Sunday obligation; in addition to the English daily Mass which I attend that is celebrated more simply & true to form than the Sunday liturgy. I have found that God ultimately prepared me to withstand being in a Catholic desert here in the Bible Belt where I live. It is lonely not being able to connect with other authentic Catholics rather than with those influenced by New Age philosophies. They don’t even know…or care….it is all they know for the most part.

    When I first converted to Catholicism was when I heard the phrase “whore of Babylon” in refernece to the Church..& I momentarily doubted my adult decision for the true Church, but then knew it was a Satanic attack on my fledgling faith.

    I love to sing so in the early 1990’s I signed up to participate in a Ralph Bell (Billy Graham) Crusade at the University. The woman next to me aked me what denomination I was from. When I answered that I was Roman Catholic she asked, Well then, why are you here?? I answered: Because I love Jesus & want to honor Him just like you do…and she said: Oh!
    Thanks to the Holy Spirit Who put that answer in my mouth! I made some friends that day, too.

    During the recent Presidential election, the silence from the pulpit was deafening at my parish as a majority planned to vote for Obama; the Democrat. Only a handful of parishioners cared that he was detrimental for life issues & other moral concerns. False “Peace & Justice” concerns ruled the day with the Iraqi war & Bush hatred paramount. We were not unified in heart & mind and I’m sure that Jesus was weeping not only over that fact, but also for all the aborted children in our nation thus far & Catholic participation in furthering the abortion industry by their vote. Dissident “Catholics” renailed him to the Cross. Some are wheat, but most are tares at this point in the history of His gloriious Church. Mercy, Lord Jesus.

  • Mary B

    God Bless You indeed. There is such dept and beauty in our Catholic faith. We just can’t know it or find it unless we look for it. We so need to pray for all those who are searching. May they be led by the Holy Spirit to come home

  • Pascalrose


    I agree with Julie. Evangelicals up here in Chicago, and there are a lot, are every bit as militant as ever. And, perhaps, if we Catholics were able to respond to our Evangelical counterparts by knowing more Bible references, our PROTESTant brothers and sisters would respect the Catholic faith.

  • Bob

    Evangelicals are loving people who are searching for Christ, like the rest of us. The only questions I would have in discussion with an Evangelic would be:

    What makes your interpretation of Christ’s teaching right, and the Catholic Church’s wrong? How?

    Who gave you the authority (or Luther, Calvin, Wesley, etc.)to start a church or group in Jesus’ name? We know Christ gave Peter the authority to start a Church, “bind and loose” on earth, which today is the Catholic Church. Who gave the Evangelicals that authority?

    Did Jesus give us a Church, or a book (the Bible)? Who gave us the canon of the New Testamant, and shouldn’t that group be the one to correctly and authoritatively interpret Scripture?Evangelicals love Scripture and the Bible. But where in the Bible does it say Sola Scriptura? How do they know that their personal interpretation of Scripture is correct?

    You know where I’m going with this. The Catholic Church has for 2000 years the fullness of the Truth of Christ. As Catholics, we must stand on this Rock and in love challenge our non-Catholic Chrisitan brothers and sisters on whose authority do they start churches or interpret sacred Scripture. “Who gave you this power and authority that you are correct in your interpretation of what Christ wanted??”

  • Glenn

    Some say that the most damaging enemy is the enemy from within. In other words, it is the Judas’s that are the worst enemy.
    -Glenn

    http://www.stgemmagalgani.com

  • Kenny

    Anti-Catholicism may or may not be retreating. I for one would rather engage with some of the spite filled anti Catholics, than with someone who just shrug their shoulders and could not care less.
    At least when they are anti Church, there is some hope of conversation. It is also a mark the the Church has some standing, and provokes thought. Good and bad.
    Kenny

  • Joseph Luna

    Hi everyone:

    I’m a born again believer with the Spirit of God in me. I love my Catholic brothers (whether they are born again or not) and desire to share with them what the Lord has taught me through the years.

    I ask for forgiveness for my past hatred towards Catholics (I was one years ago)and for thinking that the the church was evil. Well, I was wrong, dead wrong. I was very judgmental but struggle with it sometimes.

    My reason to write here is to agree wholeheartedly that both Protestant and Catholic brethren should embrace one another and begin to share what Christ has accomplished in His death, resurrection, ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit.

    We need to come together ont he basis of the Christ in us not on our differences of worship or the adoration of the Virgin.

    Those who are not born again may come to realize that they too are the beloved of God and can come home now because God was in Christ reconciling the world back to Himself (2 Cor 5:19)

    The work is finished, the blood has been shed, the Spirit has been given.

    I believe now is the time to come together and ask the Lord to heal our wounds and to put away our dissentions. After all the body of Christ has always been one.

  • Proud to be Catholic

    This Website help me tremendously in understanding more deeper about my Catholic Faith. I was sucked up by anti Catholic remarks from several websites I found on the internet where I was and almost fallen into what they were saying about the Catholic Church … from the issue of our Blessed Mother to Pope being the Anti-Christ etc… it is very important for us Catholic to understand our own faith and go to the right source for guidance and truth … The Coming Home Network help me a lot too. God bless one and all.

    http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/

  • Cynan

    Hi everyone:

    I’m a born again believer with the Spirit of God in me. I love my Catholic brothers (whether they are born again or not) and desire to share with them what the Lord has taught me through the years.

    I ask for forgiveness for my past hatred towards Catholics (I was one years ago)and for thinking that the the church was evil. Well, I was wrong, dead wrong. I was very judgmental but struggle with it sometimes.

    My reason to write here is to agree wholeheartedly that both Protestant and Catholic brethren should embrace one another and begin to share what Christ has accomplished in His death, resurrection, ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit.

    We need to come together ont he basis of the Christ in us not on our differences of worship or the adoration of the Virgin.

    Those who are not born again may come to realize that they too are the beloved of God and can come home now because God was in Christ reconciling the world back to Himself (2 Cor 5:19)

    The work is finished, the blood has been shed, the Spirit has been given.

    I believe now is the time to come together and ask the Lord to heal our wounds and to put away our dissentions. After all the body of Christ has always been one.

    I could not agree more with you Joseph. A former muslim once said to me that our brothers and sisters from other Christian denominations is not our enemy, that truly open my eyes because for one all of us that claimed we are Christian believe in Jesus Christ. Protestant, Catholic, Baptist etc. all believe in Jesus Christ and I am appalled when some non Catholic called the Holy Father (Pope) the anti-Christ and it took someone that don’t know much about Christianity to show me that. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and one day we will all be one.

  • Kamilla

    Fr. Longenecker,

    I used to be skeptical about the continued existence of anti-Catholicism.

    However, just this past week, I have been observing the vile name-calling and rank paganism tolerated on the new blog for women from Christianity Today online. The moderators are aware of at least some of the responses on their blog and yet they do nothing. They have even defended their posting of a link to what is ostensibly an AIDS charity that seems more given over to condom-promotion and sexual instruction than anything else. And this from the organization that positions itself as the voice of Evangelicalism.

    Though I am not (yet?) Catholic, I have not called myself an Evangelical for some time now. The behaviour of the folks at CT over their new blog is just one reason. My heart is crushed that those who believe they should have the moral high ground are so willing to wallow in the mire of invective, bigotry and lies.

    I’m sorry. It brings shame on all of us on this side of the Tiber and must cause our Lord so very much grief.

    Kamilla

  • Philadelphia Lawyer

    I grew up in the 1970’s in an old, ethnic parish in Philadelphia. It seemed a very Catholic place, as if the 1960’s had not happened there. I loved our three-altar marble church in which generations of my family were married, baptized, and buried. I inherited the historically well-founded Irish suspicion of Protestants. Ian Paisley was well known in my house. I no longer live in that parish, but I’m still in the Philadelphia area. But the Philadelphia area is not the same, although it is still heavily populated by people who call themselves “Catholic.” I increasingly feel out of place amongst these “Catholics.” I wish I could move to a place full of Evangelical Protestants. They might have more respect for my faith and beliefs.

  • Philadelphia Lawyer

    Since conservatives are by their very natures intolerant and adverse to change…

    Well, that’s about the most hateful and intolerant thing I’ve read in some time. Are you Bill Maher?

    Conservatives are no more averse (not “adverse”) to change than liberals. Both are averse to change which they do not like. Every time a conservative is nominated for the Supreme Court, liberals go apoplectic. Why? Because they fear change. When the public school district in Dover, PA wanted to teach intelligent design, did liberals embrace this “change”? No. Reversing Roe would be “change.” I bet you’re not for that. Gee, maybe liberals “are by their very natures intolerant and [averse] to change.”

    Really, until liberals prove capable of engaging in civil dialogue, you might want to drop the “intolerant” line. How can you begin to engage in civil dialogue? You could begin by not accusing others of racism just because they don’t agree with you. That’s not civil dialogue. Instead, try explaining why you believe someone else is wrong. Argue your case, and see how that works. I know your college professors taught you that conservatives were evil creatures who needed to be put into re-education camps, if not ovens. But they were all liberals.

    Oh, and FTR, I’ve been a Catholic since I was an infant.

  • Philadelphia Lawyer

    I am forever perplexed as to why the Catholic right has made allegiances with Evangelicals… Why in the world do Catholics align themselves with this type of hate?

    Lisa, this is a very good question with a very good answer. It is the choice of the lesser of two evils. In order to defeat Hitler, the US had to ally itself with Stalin. Whatever hate comes from Evangelical quarters, it is of far less consequence than the hate which comes at us from the secularist left. You know, the people who talk about diversity and tolerance, but insist that everyone agree with them, or else.

    Here is an example of what I’m talking about. The secularlist left wants the Supreme Court to find a fundamental “right” to gay marriage, although the constitution doesn’t actually contain such a right. (To them, the constitution is but a speed bump.) Lets say that happens. What next? Do you think the gay activists, whose lives are given meaning by their activism, will then be satisfied with civil marriage? (They weren’t satisfied with civil unions.) No. They will then seek to coerce every church into marrying gays. They will say that tax-exempt status is a state benefit which should not go to entities which “discriminate.” The “right” to gay marriage will trump the right to the free exercise of religion. If churches give up their tax exempt status rather than marry gays, the activists will look for other means of coercion.

    The secularist left controls government. It also controls every large university, as well as all but a handful of (private) small universities and colleges. Faculty hiring committees do not even consider hiring social conservatives. ‘Talk about McCarthyism! The same is increasingly true at the level of the public schools, and probably more than a few “Catholic” schools. The same is true for every major newspaper, Time, Newsweek, US News, AP, Reuters, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, etc. The anti-Catholic Evangelicals don’t have anything near that power. They’re influence is even waning among Evangelicals.

    So the choice for Catholics is whether to ally ourselves with some people who merely don’t like us, or allow ourselves to be demonized and persecuted by the secularist left.

    It isn’t about political gain. It’s about political survival.

  • David Sunseri

    I am quite honestly “anti-catholic”. The reason for this is that I think the institutional church is immoral. I was abused by two catholic priests as a little boy. The leadership of the church tried to cover up the truth of children being abused by priests. That’s it.

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